Looking back to April 13, the Boston Red Sox were off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. With just a pair of wins at home against New York, the Sox sat at 2-9 and nothing was going right. To make matters worse, they had just dropped the first two in a home series against Tampa, including a 16-5 thumping.
The Baseball Gods smiled on them, granting a much needed rain out. The unscheduled off day provided time to stop, breathe and evaluate just what had gone wrong the first two weeks of the season. Something must have clicked, as the Sox reeled off victories in eight of the next 10 games, including a four-game sweep of the Angels.
Flash forward a month and the weather has put a halt to arguably the best ball the Sox have found all season. Tuesday’s rainout at Fenway finds the Sox in the midst of a four-game win streak. After sweeping the Yankees this weekend, they’ve found their way right back into contention for the AL East lead. In fact, no AL team has notched more wins in the month of May than the Sox at 10.
At last, all the cylinders seem to be clicking, and perhaps the Sox will live up to the preseason expectations after all. Pinpointing their recent success is difficult, as they seem to be getting contributions up and down the line-up. You could attribute it to the injection of Jed Lowrie into the everyday line-up, but looking closer, he has batted .258 in May. It’s not second baseman Dustin Pedroia, he’s had just one extra-base hit so far this month.
No, I’d say Adrian Gonzalez is the responsible party for a good portion of the Sox recent turnaround. After hitting just one homer in April, Gonzalez is exhibiting the kind of power that prompted Theo Epstein’s long pursuit of the first baseman. No one in the majors has homered more this month; his eight leads both leagues. This past week, he had a hotter bat than anyone not named Jose Batista, .346 BA, 5 HR and 10 RBI.
So far, Gonzalez has gone yard just twice at Fenway, his first not coming until May 3. Fill-in color man Dennis Eckersley seems to be an awe each time he calls a Gonzalez hit. His second shot rendering Eck nearly speechless. It appears the powerful lefty has found his Fenway stroke, look for him to pepper opposite-field doubles off the wall and curl homers around Pesky Pole all season long.
Even Carl Crawford appears to be breaking his early-season funk. His biggest hits have come during clutch situations. It started May 1 when a ninth-inning single plated Jed Lowrie to give the Sox a 3-2 victory against the Mariners. A week later, he added more late-inning heroics by doubling off the wall for another walk off RBI. His average has been steadily climbing and a return to the top of the line-up should not be far off.
Led by Josh Beckett, the starters have turned things around, too. In three May starts, Beckett has not allowed a run and picked up 17 strikeouts. Clay Buchholz is following suit with three quality starts so far this month. During his latest outing against New York, he gave up just two ERs in seven innings for the victory. Let’s not discount Jon Lester’s numbers either. Despite allowing five home runs, he has gained two victories and sent 23 batters to the dugout via the K to lead the AL in May strikeouts.
Perhaps Tuesday’s postponement will be a blessing in disguise for the Sox, as they don’t have another off day until Thursday June 3. The forecast does not appear to be improving, so the team may have to wait another day to play. I’d say the best thing for them would be to get back on the diamond and look to continue their recent hot streak.